Life is sometimes chock-a-block with weird symmetry. For example, just last week I stopped into one of my favorite used-media emporiums to check out the used vinyl, CDs and, of course, books.
On this particular occasion, I found another copy of T.S. Eliot’s collection of essays, “Christianity and Culture.” Mind you, I possess several other copies of this very same book, but this particular volume, so to speak, screamed at me to purchase it.
After all, this book seemed “clean.” By this, I mean I rifled quickly through the pages and saw no highlights/scribbled notes in the margins or other defacements … whereas my copies contain notes and sticky pad markers galore.
Sometimes it’s nice to come to a work fresh, without confronting one’s own previous remarks. So I bought it (along with some Robinson Jeffers, John Dos Passos, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Flann O’Brien, and a nifty overview of the poetry of William Butler Yeats by his fellow Irish poet Louis MacNeice). Nice haul!
But I digress. That’s what you do when you talk about things about which you’re passionate.
Back to the weird symmetry, the point of entry for this week’s roundabout excursion. Shortly after returning home, I began to peruse my bounty. Inside my new(ish) Eliot, I found a Post-It note I had previously overlooked stuck on one of the first few pages.
There was nothing but an address inscribed on the note. What was weird, however, was the address was the same house number as my own. Different street, different town, but same house number.
Sorry, but that’s weird. Not enough to make me play the same numbers in today’s lottery, but still weird in my book.
As this is written, it’s the morning of my birthday. Once again, I celebrate another 365 days spent spinning around the sun. It’s a beautiful autumn morning, and I’m surrounded by books, music, two sleeping (and, because they’re somewhat the same age as me, snoring) dogs, as well as my rosary and scapular.
Prior to leaving for work, the World’s Most Beautiful Woman gifted me with a wonderful card filled with a personalized, loving note. My social media wall is filled with greetings and well-wishes from friends and family members as well as “friends” from around the world.
Then there’s the anticipation of speaking with my cherished daughters and granddaughter later today, as well as hearing from my two stepdaughters.
I’m feeling totally blessed, which isn’t necessarily an emotion foreign to me, but today the sentiment rings even more true than usual. In “Poem on His Birthday,” the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote: “This sandgrain day in the bent bay’s grave/He celebrates and spurns/His driftwood thirty-fifth wind turned age;/Herons spire and spear.”
And this: “And the rhymer in the long tongued room,/Who tolls his birthday bell,/Toes towards the ambush of his wounds;/Herons, steeple stemmed, bless.”
Space prohibits quoting the poem’s last two stanzas, but intrigued readers may find the complete poem online. It’s wonderful, and well worth your while, I promise you. I believe I included much of Thomas’ work in a previous column.
The cathartic payoff is tremendous, which is why I repeat the message continuously.
Life is short, but as well too long to wrap oneself into an ultimately meaningless cycle of existential crises and pointless concerns. My friend Don Negus has indicated in these pages much the same message in his columns referencing Thomas Merton.
As another friend, Robert Hudson, noted in his wonderful book on Merton and Bob Dylan (“The Monk’s Record Player”), taking the time to meditate on culture and humanity’s place in the cosmos leads to a richer, fuller, more spiritual and, thus, more complete life.
Come to think of it, that’s also the point of the essays collected in Eliot’s “Christianity and Culture.”
Bruce Edward Walker (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Morning Sun columnist.